Mario Benedetti – ‘No Te Salves’ & El Sur también existe

I was recently introduced to a poet by a colleague of mine in the anthropology program at CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies).  The poem No Te Salves (Don’t Save Yourself, or alternately Don’t Play it Safe) affects me deeply and I was haunted by its presence in me, its beauty and power.

Its author, the famous Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti (September 14, 1920 – May 17, 2009) was amongst the most important Latin American literary figures of the 20th century.  He was not well-known in the West, which is not a surprise.  He lived in exile in Argentina, Peru, Cuba, and then Spain when a dictatorship ruled his native country Uruguay.

His poem, No Te Salves, is recited in this video by famous Argentinian actor Miguel Angel Sola.

The English translation is subtitled on the screen.

The English translation written on this post, which is slightly different from the video subtitles, were written by colleague/friend/activist Alejandro Urruzmendi.

For those of you who want the entire poem written in both languages, it is below the video.

My other favorite poem by him follows.

English translation:


Do not stay motionless
on the edge of the path
do not freeze joy
do not love with disillusion
do not save yourself now
or ever
do not save yourself
do not fill yourself with calm
do not reserve from the world
a mere tranquil corner
do not let your eyelids fall
heavy like judgements
do not be left without lips
do not sleep without weariness
do not think (yourself) without blood
do not judge yourself without time.
But if
in spite of it all
you can’t avoid it
and you freeze joy
and you love with disillusion
and you save yourself now
and you fill yourself with calm
and you reserve in the world
merely a tranquil corner
and you allow your eyelids to fall
heavy like judgements
and you are desiccated without lips
and you sleep without weariness
and you think (yourself) without blood
and you judge yourself without time
and you stay motionless
at the edge of the path
and you save yourself
do not stay with me.

Please Change the Title to Do Not Save Yourself (No to Salves)

Please Change line 4 to: do not love with disillusion

Please add: And you sleep without weariness

after: and you are desiccated without lips

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another poem of Mario Benedetti that I love is El Sur Tambien Existe, or The South Also Exists, which is a passionate indictment to US Foreign policy.

El Sur Tambien Existe

Con su ritual de acero
sus grandes chimeneas
sus sabios clandestinos
su canto de sirenas
sus cielos de neón
sus ventanas navideñas
su culto a dios padre
y de las charreteras
con sus llaves del reino
el norte es el que ordena

pero aquí abajo
abajo el hambre disponible
recorre el fruto amargo
de lo que otros deciden
mientras que el tiempo pasa
y pasan los desfiles
y se hacen otras cosas
que el norte no prohíbe
con su esperanza dura
el sur también existe

con sus predicadores
sus gases que envenenan
su escuela de chicago
sus dueños de la tierra
con sus trapos de lujo
y su pobre osamenta
sus defensas gastadas
sus gastos de defensa
son su gesta invasora
el norte es el que ordena

pero aquí abajo
abajo cada uno en su escondite
hay hombres y mujeres
que saben a qué asirse
aprovechando el sol
y también los eclipses
apartando lo inútil
y usando lo que sirve
con su fe veterana
el sur también existe

English Translation:

THE SOUTH ALSO EXISTS (El Sur Tambien Existe)

With its ritual of steel

Its great chimneys

Its secret scholars

Its siren song

Its neon skies

Its Christmas sales

Its cult of God the Father

And of epaulets

With its keys

to the kingdom

The North is the one

who orders

But down here, down

Hunger at hand

Resorts to the bitter fruit

Of what others decide

While time passes

And pass the parades

And other things

That the North does not forbid.

With its hard hope

The South also exists.

With its preachers

Its poison gases

Its ChicagoSchool

Its owners of the Earth

With its luxurious costume

And its meager frame

Its expenses of defense

With its epic of invasion

The North is the one who orders

Bud down here, down

Each in their hideaway

Are men and women

Who know what to grasp

Making the most of the sun

And eclipses

Putting useless things aside

And using what is useful.

With its veteran faith

The South also exists.

With its French horn

And its SwedishAcademy

Its American sauce

And its English wrenches

With all its missiles

And its encyclopedias

Its war of galaxies

And its rich cruelty

With all its laurels

The North is the one who orders

Bud down here, down

Near the roots

Is where memory

Omits no memory

And there are those

Who defy death for

And die for

And thus together achieve

What is impossible

That the whole world

would know

That the South,

That the South also exists.

English translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.